Mike Walsh | Powder Report: Fresh snow gives us another chance to shred local mountains


When Toto's TomTom got mixed up and they were suddenly blessing the snows up in Berkshire County, the shredfather calls for one thing, and one thing only.

Back-to-backs and a ton of local powder news.

We were the grateful beneficiaries of 20-plus inches of sweet, soft, succulent powder at the numerous local shred-palaces this past week. Yours truly lucked out and managed to score some untouched mounds at Ski Butternut Thursday morning and gobble up whatever first tracks were left at Bousquet midday Friday. Special shout-out to the Mount Greylock Regional School District for the snow day, which allowed the not-quite-shreddy fiance to join me down in Great Barrington.

Both days were gush-worthy on the mountains, with some ungroomed portions sinking you more than a foot deep at a standstill. There's something about the quiet serenity fresh pow gives you after a season full of the grinding cacophony of icy northeastern terrain. I highly recommend you put this Eagle down (or bring it with you for some light lodge or apres reading) and get on a hill somewhere. There is still plenty of last week's dumping left for you. I'm not that greedy.

And March is a perfect time to hit the slopes. There are bluebird days a comin' and more than a handful of events to attend locally.

Last Sunday, Butternut held it's Logs n' Lipslides event. Unfortunately, I was all bachelor partied and pig roasted out in Boston and couldn't get back in time to attend, but the lucky beneficiaries of my absence were some gnarly locals in four divisions.

Winners of the 16-and-Up Skiers were Connor O'Brian in the top spot, followed by Phil Geyselaer and Charles Crail. In the 15-and-Under twin tips it was Sam Higa taking the top prize and Arthur Swartz hot on his tail.

The riding categories were taken by Charlie Raczskowski for 16-and-Up and Nick Deris for the youngsters. Walker Lee and Josh Baillargeon podiumed on boards in the elder category, while in the 15-and-Under snowboarders is was Alex Schwab in second and Shane Banahan in third.

Just because the contest is over, though, doesn't mean you can't enjoy some hardwood on the soft powder yourself. Per Butternut, many of the fixtures are still up and shreddable. The lady of the shredhouse isn't quite up to boardsliding just yet, but I'll be back.

"Logs N' Lipslides combined traditional park features with wooden elements," wrote Ben Denard, marketing assistant at Butternut, in an email. "Tree taps, log stairs and stacked logs were all part of the course and were along side small boxes, and big rails. Competitors were not required to hit the logs, however extra points were added for using the wooden elements. Competitors hiked the course in 45 minute jam sessions in their respective divisions."

Butternut's not done, either. On March 17, as part of its Spring Fling event, they're going to hold a high jump contest and some rounds of S.N.O.W.

"Think H.O.R.S.E. but with tricks instead of basketball shots," writes Denard.

Of course, you all already know that Bousquet is also hosting its 21st annual Irish Olympics in Pittsfield next Saturday. Head there if you're in the mood for a slush run, some fireworks and much, much more. There's a kick-off party on March 16 as well.

Jiminy Peak STRIDE event

Another big event coming to the Berkshires next weekend is STRIDE's Great Race at Jiminy Peak on March 17.

STRIDE is an adaptive sports program designed to help those with disabilities get active. With skiing, there are three locations; Jiminy Peak, Catamount and Ski Sundown, but Jiminy is the largest. I found out about STRIDE through a video a couple years ago about a guy who suffered a motorcycle accident and took up mono-skiing. However, through speaking with CEO and founder Mary Ellen Whitney, I found out STRIDE is much more than that.

"It's everything. Everything from intellectual disabilities to physical disabilities," said Whitney. "We've got a little bit of everything. Everyone comes to sports for different reasons. It's no different if you have a diagnosis."

She went on to say that some of their athletes just want to be out there with their families. Others are working to get back from an injury and doing physical therapy. Mostly, STRIDE helps children in the autism spectrum. Nearly 80 percent of their work lies in that field.

The Great Race is STRIDE's showcase event, an introductory competition which places athletes into categories of three. Everybody gets a medal.

Per Jiminy's website, it's meant "to introduce adaptive skiers to the thrill and excitement of racing in a safe format. Divisions are open to Visually Impaired, Blind, 2-Track, 3-Track, 4-Track, Bi-ski, Mono Skiers and Snowboarders with special needs. Racer entrance fee is $60 which includes ski pass, coaches, rental and adaptive equipment, two runs on the race-course, outdoor barbecue, music, and an awards ceremony. Please join us in welcoming and supporting these brave athletes!"

The event begins with registration through 9 a.m. at JJ's Lodge. Then, the Group 1 race goes from 9 to 10, followed by the Group 2 race at 10:30.

Awards ceremony starts at 1 p.m. after lunch.

STRIDE is much more than this one event, though. There are lessons available almost every weekend at all three mountains.

"We do annually between 1,200 and 1,500 lessons. Jiminy is our biggest program and does about 800-900 lessons a year," said Whitney. "They're half-day private lessons that include equipment and we match up someone with that special kind of training to work with the disability."

Instructors are very well trained volunteers, who specialize in creating a safe environment, while also allowing the athletes to experience as much freedom as possible on the slopes. STRIDE also works with a Wounded Warriors-type of organization to get disabled soldiers up on the mountain.

If you're curious about STRIDE, head to Jiminy this weekend and take a look. It's certainly a leap to get on a mountain, but you'll see some of the most badass athletes on the planet there. The US just saw its first ever biathlon gold medalists come during the US Paralympic Nordic Team in Pyeongchang.

"Come and see us. There's a sport for everybody," Whitney says. "Come and take a look if you're nervous about it. We're there every weekend and it's a program that has been around for about 25 years. Open door, come see what we're doing and if you want to get involved, jump on board."

Until next time, keep your tips up and stay spoice!

Mike Walsh can be reached at mwalsh@berkshireeagle.com, at @CLNS_Walsh on Twitter and 413-496-6240.


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